Posted by Register Holy Land correspondent Michele Chabin:
The visit of the Holy Father to Israel is an exciting event here, but it’s also creating the Mother of All Traffic Jams.
Israeli security is massive, with an estimated 70,000 security personnel on Pope Watch. Always vigilant due to the threat of terrorism, and mindful of the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II, the Israelis are taking no chances.
Police and paramilitary border police cordon off major roads and entire parts of the city every time the papal entourage goes from Point A to Point B, leaving ordinary Israelis stranded, sometimes for hours. This morning (Wednesday), Hebron road, a very major thoroughfare in Jerusalem, was declared off-limits from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., making it impossible for tens of thousands of people to get to work or school.
At the Efrata School, a modern-Orthodox Jewish elementary school in West Jerusalem, children living on the impassable side of Hebron Road were instructed to arrive at school after 9 a.m., following the passage of the Pope’s motorcade, and “to pray at home, instead of school, this morning.”
Instead of his usual 30-minute commute between different parts of Jerusalem, Sidney Slivko (this writer’s husband) found himself stuck in traffic for more than an hour, only to be directed and redirected for another hour. Finally, he found himself in the center of the city, where he parked the car in a lot and walked home — another half hour.
During the walk home, Sid was caught in yet another security blockage, along with a couple of thousand other pedestrians.
“When the police finally opened the road,” Sid said, “it was like the parted waters of the Red Sea coming back together. It was almost biblical.”
The Bible is never too far away when you live in Jerusalem.